When you think of the Daytona International Speedway, the first thing that may come to mind is the prestigious NASCAR race - the Daytona 500. Also known as “The Great American Race,” the Daytona 500 sets attendance records with over 101,000 people in the stands and up to 250,000 people in the vicinity of the track, which constitutes three square miles.
What you may not know is that behind the scenes, there are more than 200 fire and rescue personnel working tirelessly to help keep everyone safe.
How does the fire brigade operate and what are some of the distinct fire truck features unique to the speedway? Continue reading to learn more.
The Fire Brigade
When the Daytona International Speedway was founded years ago, the fire department was comprised of firefighters from local agencies. In 2001, NASCAR created standards and protocols for running the fire and EMS calls, which doubled the required staff and resulted in changes to the firefighting and EMS operations.
Like any major industrial complex, the Speedway is required to staff a fire department on-site at all times. The Daytona International Speedway (DIS) Fire Rescue Department provides service for all facility events, including NASCAR, ARCA, AMA Superbike, Motocross, WKA, soccer and other sporting events, musical concerts and more.
This temporary, part-time role at the Speedway is often a second, and in some cases, a third job for the brave men and women of the DIS Fire Rescue Department. Brigade members hail from both local (80-percent) and long-distance (20-percent) departments from states across America. Most of the firefighters have been on the fire brigade for an extended period of time. About 80-percent of the crew return each year.
These dedicated firefighters travel great distances because they are proud to serve the Daytona International Speedway. They love the camaraderie and enjoy a change of pace from their home departments. This is a great venue to fuel their passion for public service, and the fire brigade is an integral part of race day success.
Daytona International Speedway Operations
Day-to-day and event operations at the speedway requires strong leadership, expertise and a lot of personnel. Fire Chief Mike Cordle is proud to oversee operations at Speedway events throughout the year and has been serving at Fire Chief since 2006. Mike retired in 2020 from his long-standing post as battalion chief for Lake County, Florida’s Fire Rescue Department.
“During events at the speedway, and especially during the Daytona 500, it looks like a large Municipality,” stated Chief Cordle. “When there are thousands of people on-site, we need to coordinate our placement and support to be ready to respond to any type of emergency.”
To support the vast speedway grounds, firefighters are divided into four crews for the races:
- The garage area;
- The grandstands and suites;
- The infield (where people camp), and;
- The track.
Each crew has specific roles and protocols for the unique situations in their area. Chief Cordle is stationed at the official Pierce fire station, located in the speedway’s infield. During all events, Chief Cordle is in charge of fire and EMS response.
To appropriately support the grounds, an on-site dispatch center answers all 9-1-1 emergency calls from the Speedway. Much like any local municipality, the dispatch team manages incoming calls and alerts the nearest emergency response vehicle to respond to the incident on the property. When necessary, dispatch can also ask outside agencies to provide additional emergency assistance.
Every September, firefighters participate in training with NASCAR to become certified to respond to accidents on the track. They also have training provided by the Daytona International Speedway and FEMA, and training is applied throughout the year. Each year, events take place for approximately 250 days at the Speedway.
Pierce Fire Apparatus at the Speedway
In 1998, the DIS Fire Rescue Department began using Pierce apparatus, and in 2009, Pierce became the Official Fire Truck of the Speedway.
The track features seven custom pumpers on-site for each major Speedway event, which are equipped to support the track’s unique needs.
The trucks are versatile and are designed to manage everyday firefighting capabilities and to meet Class A National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standards. Trucks stationed on the track and in the garage area are outfitted with fire fighting foam systems designed to manage gasoline and engine fires. In addition, trucks close to the race often include ample compartmentation and storage to house extrication tools, forcible entry tools and ventilation fans. Firefighters need to be prepared for anything in other areas around the track, including EMS calls, RV or camper fires, kitchen fires and general emergencies.
“The seven class A pumpers provided by Pierce are a tremendous asset to the DIS Fire Rescue Department,” stated Chief Cordle. “They are the perfect size for the venue, provide incredible ease of mobility, and I believe they are second to none.”
There are two trucks that remain on-site all year for any needs outside the race season. Daytona International Speedway Fire Brigade is proud to use Pierce apparatus. The reliable trucks ensure the race seasons are a success.
Download Now: Daytona 500 Fire Truck Images
Pierce is proud to supply apparatus to keep everyone safe at the race events. To celebrate the annual Daytona 500, download free Daytona 500 fire truck background images for your desktop computer or mobile device. "Drivers, start your engines!"